The percentage of matches lasting 100 minutes or more in Europe’s top 20 leagues has more than doubled in the initial rounds of this season compared to last season, according to a new report.
Referees in leagues around the world are now following a new directive to more accurately calculate time lost to stoppages, such as goal celebrations and substitutions.
UEFA’s European Club Talent and Competition Landscape report, which will be published on Thursday, has found the share of matches in the opening two rounds of Europe’s premier domestic leagues lasting 100 minutes or more had risen to more than 43 per cent, compared to 20 per cent for the whole of last season.
The move to tackle time-wasting was first adopted by FIFA at last year’s men’s World Cup in Qatar and the sport’s law-making body, the International Football Association Board, said in March that leagues around the world should follow the same approach.
UEFA’s chief of football Zvonimir Boban recently described the new directive as “absurd” and vowed it would not be implemented in this season’s Champions League.
That followed concerns from players and their unions about the new directive, with Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive Maheta Molango warning last month that football was “sleepwalking into a disaster” on player welfare, with the combined impact of new regulations and an ever-expanding match schedule.
The new UEFA report found that 139 matches in the first two rounds of action had lasted 100 minutes or more, compared to 83 at the same point last season, and that the average match had lasted 100.2 minutes, compared to 97.7 minutes last season.
Only one of Europe’s top 20 leagues, the Turkish Super Lig, averaged more than 100 minutes last season, with the Premier League recording an average of 98.5 in 2022-23.
FIFA referees’ chief Pierluigi Collina praised competitions around the world for embracing the new directive, saying last month: “This recommendation does not affect the players’ welfare but simply compensates for time that has been wasted.
“I’m sure that the vast majority of stakeholders agree with this. The reaction we had at the World Cup 2022 and at the Women’s World Cup 2023, both from teams and spectators, was very positive.
“A survey conducted by the World Leagues Forum showed 90 per cent of their members agreed with the criteria that began to be applied at the FIFA World Cup 2022.
“I would like to commend the referees, as they have correctly enforced what was recommended by IFAB, including in UEFA competitions.”
Collina pointed out that in the play-off round of UEFA’s club competitions this season, the average additional time given was 10 minutes in the Champions League, nine minutes and 12 seconds in the Europa League and 10 minutes and eight seconds in the Europa Conference League.
“This is completely in line with what we have seen around the world,” the Italian added.
“I understand that any reforms to the Laws of the Game, or simply their interpretation as is the case, may be viewed with scepticism by some but, as was the case with the introduction of VAR, when the measures are in defence of football, they end up being accepted.”